Cynosure - Noun. 1. a person or thing that is the center of attention or admiration. 2. Something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc. 3. Something serving for guidance and direction.

Erend stared at the Tallneck plodding its slow circuit around a series of rocky hills. "You're climbing that?"

Aloy grinned. "Why not?" He stared at her in complete disbelief, able to think of a number of reasons why not. "It's not that hard. I'll show you." Without waiting for his answer, she trotted off toward the big machine and Erend followed her as he always did and likely always would. When Aloy had mentioned wanting to get out of the city for a bit and invited Erend along, climbing a Tallneck was not what he thought they'd be doing. Not that he should be surprised, he supposed, not when it was Aloy.

As they grew closer to the Tallneck, Erend felt the ground under his boots shaking at every massive footfall. "How do you climb it without getting squashed?" he asked.

"We jump from there." Aloy pointed to a rock outcropping next to the Tallneck's route.

"Wait, we?" Aloy simply grinned at him and began scrambling up the rocks. "I'm not climbing that," Erend protested, even as he followed her, albeit slower and less gracefully.

"It's not that bad. Easier than climbing a mountainside."

He tapped his armor. "I'm not really the climbing type. Besides, I've never had any quarrel with solid ground. Easier to smack things with a hammer from down here."

Aloy rolled her eyes, but the approach of the Tallneck stopped anything she might have said in reply. Erend's eyes widened as she leapt from the ledge they stood on and grabbed one of the fins on the machine's neck. She pulled herself up and crouched there, balance shifting to match the Tallneck's movement.

"See? Nothing to it."

Erend shook his head with a smile, lifting his hands. "Easy for you to say. I prefer to stay down here. Besides, that thing's awfully high."

"You live in Meridian. The whole city is up high"

"Meridian isn't moving."

"What about the elevators?"

Erend laughed. "I can't fall off the elevators. And I don't have to climb them either."

Aloy shook her head and continued climbing, jumping from one fin to another with practiced ease. In a matter of minutes, she had reached the Tallneck's wide, flat head. Anyone else would have seemed out of place riding a machine like that, but Aloy stood proud and tall and utterly at ease. Erend realized he was grinning like the besotted idiot he was.

"You're missing a great view," Aloy called and Erend's grin widened.

"I like the view just fine from down here, thanks," he yelled back. Though he couldn't see her face, he could picture her eyeroll and the fond smirk she seemed to reserve just for him. He lived for those moments, those snatches of time where it was just him and her. Erend didn't kid himself. He knew his feelings ran far deeper than hers, that expecting her to tie herself to a single person or place was pointless. But he was grateful for his two minutes whenever she gave them and hoped she thought of him when she was off tracking killers and taming machines. He certainly thought about her.

The Tallneck had almost completed its circuit and Aloy waved at him as it drew near. He had just lifted his hand to wave back when she took a step and then launched herself off the Tallneck and into the air. Erend forgot how to breathe. His lungs seized, heart pounding against his ribs and throat like a hammer. For a moment, Aloy hung there, silhouetted against the sky. Then she twisted, throwing something back at the Tallneck, and Erend realized she was repelling. Her hair billowed out behind her like a burning flag as she slid toward the ground. Not for the first time, Erend could see why the Nora treated her with such reverence. She was like a force of nature, free and strong. He knew she hated being put on a pedestal, but sometimes he viewed her there, high above him like she was on the Tallneck, untamed and unreachable.

She landed, looking at him with that smirk, her eyes bright and hair wild, and Erend had never been so in love with anyone in all his life. Too late, he realized he was staring and tried to cover it by clearing his throat.

"Is that how you always come down?"

"Of course," said Aloy, winding up her grapple and re-attaching it to her belt. "It's faster."

"Faster at giving me a heart attack maybe."

"I'll make sure and warn you next time."

"Thank you, I appreciate that." She gave him a fond little eyeroll and his chest warmed. "So, what other machines are you going to climb today?" he asked. A familiar gleam slid into her eyes and he immediately regretted asking.

"How do you feel about riding a Strider?" she asked.

Erend choked. "Say what now?"

Aloy laughed and gestured for him to follow her. "It's not that hard. I'll show you." Erend gazed after her a moment, shook his head, and followed.